Friday, July 14, 2017

The Wonderful World of Magic Poster Books

Who started this craziness with the Magic Poster books? I think it was Taschen. Actually, it was Charles Reynolds in 1976 with his book of magic posters. It just took everyone else a long time to catch on.

Is it just me, or is anyone else having 'magic poster overload'? ANOTHER book of vintage magic posters has just come out, and like all the previous books it's a beauty. Sorry, I'm not going to rate which one is the best because when it comes to magic posters, I love them all and of the ones I listed below, I have all but one.

Before I tell you about the latest book, let's go back and look at some others. As I mentioned, the first Magic Poster book that I can think of was 100 Years of Magic Posters by Charles and Regina Reynolds. Published by Darien House in 1976, this book was for the general public. And it was printed in multiple languages as well as in a hard cover version and a soft cover version. I never realized it came in different language versions until I went to read the copy I purchased not long ago and realized it was in GERMAN! A quick look online and I found copies in Dutch and in other languages. The book measures 11x16 (at least that is the size of the German edition). The only drawback I can see to the book is that of all the pages of full cover reproductions, in the middle of the book there are 30 pages of posters in black and white. But other than that I know it was an extremely popular book for it's time. I've seen copies sell online from $50-100.

Next we come to the massive Taschen book on Magic Posters, called MAGIC 1400s-1950s.  I was visiting with Ken Klosterman when I first heard about this book. He showed me a copy of the Taschen book on Circuses and mentioned that they were doing a volume on Magic Posters.  The book came out in 2009 and measures 12.5 inches wide, 20 inches tall and 3 inches thick
and weighs about 17 lbs. The books authors are Mike Caveney, Jim Steinmeyer and Ricky Jay and Noel Daniel listed as Editor. A single volume of the book has chapters in English, German and French. Additional copies may have come out in other languages, I'm not sure. The original volume came in a slipcase and even had it's own cardboard carrying box with handle! The posters are in vivid color and are amazing. The only drawback to this book is it's so HUGE you need a special table to display it and frankly you might need a special table just to look through the book because it's so massive. It's a whopping 25 inches wide when you open it up!  Interestingly, the cover of the book features Harry Kellar paging through a massive book on a table. That table was later recreated by Lupe Nielsen of Nielsen Magic, and it was specifically made for this giant Taschen book (see the link).

Taschen was not finished however with magic poster books. In 2013, they put out a slightly smaller edition which measured 10.6 x 15.6 x 2.4 and weighed 12 lbs. I believe there was a third volume as well which was slight smaller than the second edition. Mine is in storage so I can't readily check on it. And then a final version which would measure 13.5 x 9 x 1.4. and weight considerably less than the original (see photo left).

Taschen also put out Magic Poster Calendars, a Gift Box of Magic Poster Postcards, and a Magic Poster Journal. And a quick search through Amazon shows that they also put out a volume of their book in paperback version. I've not seen the paperback version however. All the other books are hardcover books.

Speaking a Nielsen Magic, the massive poster collection of Norm and Lupe Nielsen went up for auction recently, at least part of it. Potter & Potter Auctions created two hard cover catalog books to commemorate the auction. These books, unlike those previous mentioned are in a more manageable size., 11x9. The books are called The Golden Age of Magic Posters-Nielsen Collection Volume 1 and 2. These books are beautifully done.  Because they are catalogs, after the full color photo of the posters, you get a description along with the estimated auction price.  Of course, these prices are estimates, as the final prices the posters sold for varied.

Gabe Fajuri runs Potter & Potter Auctions and he had the two catalogs made. Now he has created a new volume, The Golden Age of Magic Posters Deluxe Edition. Unlike the previous volumes, this book is not a catalog. Rather it is a coffee table book, 9x12 with slip cover. It has 800 posters that appear in the previous volumes but also an additional 100  posters and unique images that were not part of the original set. This volume is a deluxe edition and limited to 200 copies. If you want to pick up a copy of this beautiful book, follow this link

The latest book is called ILLUSIONS-The Art of Magic and is the companion book to the Allan Slaight Collection being displayed at the McCord Museum in Montreal. The book is gorgeous. I love the sleek black design on the outside of the book. Many of what I would call popular posters are featured in the book, as well as many that seldom seen.

This book is available through Amazon at the following link.

There are two other books that rate an honorable mention here. They are not Magic Poster books like those above, but there are loads of magic posters featured in these two books. And both books feature a full color section. The first is Milbourne Christopher's Illustrated History of Magic, and the next is David Price's MAGIC A Pictorial History of Conjurers in the Theatre.  The Christopher book is still fairly easy to find, a new edition was printed a few years back so I'm sure you can find it on ebay. The Price book is harder to find, though a copy is listed in the upcoming Potter & Potter Auction. If you do not have a copy of that book, and you are into magic history, YOU have to get one!

By the way, if there is a book of magic posters I missed, please let me know. I think there was a book on European Magic Posters, but I don't recall the name of the book, nor do I know the author.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Doug Henning Mania

I know I've been absent for the past few weeks. I missed out on the tour of the Houdini House in NYC. I guess it's the curse of being a performer, and a busy one at that. I don't quite have the amount of time I'd like to do some other things, like explore Houdini's home.

I have been hip deep in shows. But when I'm not out performing I seem to be engrossed in the world of Doug Henning. I'm not exactly sure what started this, maybe it was the new DougHenningProject blog. But I've been watching tons of clips of Henning that I have on old tapes. I've watched most of the old specials. I've purchased some posters and am rereading the excellent book by John Harrison.

 I was certainly inspired by Doug Henning. He and Houdini were two driving forces of my initial
interest in magic. As I look back over my own career I see Henning's influence in much of the material I perform. The Needle Through Mirror still figures prominently in my show, and was featured by Henning on one of his specials. Twilight, a trick by Paul Harris was featured on that same special and was something I did early one and recently relearned it. The Vanishing Nickel, which was the opening trick of Doug's first NBC special was also one of my first tricks. The seashell matrix was another routine that I was always fond of and recently recorded it for my WeeklyWizardry show on Facebook. In my big show we present his Ring in Bread routine which he featured in his last tour and was the creation of Jim Steinmeyer.  Another routine that Doug did was Joe Riding's 3 Card Trick with 4 Cards, which again, I have in my show, but with a very different presentation.  The Rubic's Cube trick from his Broadway Special is yet another one! Gosh, there were more than I realized. What can I say, Doug Henning had an eye for great magic. And of course he had a top notch team of advisors finding that magic for him!

Watching Henning on talk shows is a delight. He excelled in those circumstances. Seeing him LIVE was even better. I was fortunate enough to see his show live 4 times. He always seemed genuine on stage. You never got the impression he was putting on an act, but rather, the guy you saw on-stage was probably very much like his off-stage persona as well.

The one negative thing I will say is the writing on his specials was dreadful. I remember back in the day thinking it was dreadful and it's worse now, lol. But the magic was rock solid.

I have a feeling more Henning magic will be in my shows in the future. After receiving the gift of one of Henning's canes from his Cane Cabinet, I've been giving that illusion serious thought. There are also two illusions that Henning did that I've never seen anyone else do that I think would be wonderful. In fact, I've always thought it would be a great fit for my show. I'll reserve the right to keep the name of it secret for now.

But look at some of the illusions Henning did that others have done. Origami Box, yes Doug was the FIRST to present this beautiful illusion. Walking Through A Mirror, another first. The Water Levitation was pure Henning and the first to do it. The Elevator was a Doug Henning first, though his Elevator had a different method. And even though he wasn't the first to present The MisMade Lady and The Zig Zag Lady, they were certainly most associated with Doug Henning.

Where would we be today without Doug Henning? It's hard to say. He brought magic back to the masses and opened the door to future performers like David Copperfield and the countless others that followed him. Yes, it's true that Doug Henning was a product of his time and seems kind of goofy today. But I encourage you to look beyond the crazy costumes and corny jokes and experience the magic from a guy who truly believed there was real magic in the world! And please check out the DougHenningProject blog as it continues to have great content and interviews with folks who knew and worked with Doug Henning!

Sunday, June 25, 2017

LINK: WILD ABOUT HARRY: Inside Houdini's 278

Last Sunday, June 18th, there was an open house at the location of Harry Houdini's home in New York. This would be the first time that many people have ever seen in the inside of the house. I unfortunately, was unable to attend. If I had found out a bit sooner, I would have been there, but as it was I had performances which I was unable to reschedule at the last minute. So I missed an opportunity of a lifetime. Though, something tells me I shall yet see the house one day.

My fellow Houdini-fanatic, John Cox, of was there. He has written what I believe is his ultimate Houdini article. I don't believe anything he has written before or in the future will ever top this piece. Writing about history is one thing, experiencing history first hand is another. John got to experience history and not only that, because he has incredible knowledge of Houdini, he was able to figure out things about the house, areas where Houdini had taken iconic photos and more, that the average person just wouldn't know about. Seeing the many additional photos that he included in his article, I must say that even I would have been unable to deliver such a fine piece. His photos of the inside of the house from The American Museum of Magic, really took the article over the top. I will always regret not being able to make it, but like Houdini, I chose the path of performing, and history was a later passion. Still, if the opportunity to explore the house ever comes up again, I do hope I am able to take full advantage. And I'll be carrying John's article with me as I explore the place because it is so rich with details. Thank you John and now folks, please head over there and read all about it (if you have not already done so!)

WILD ABOUT HARRY: Inside Houdini's 278: Last Sunday I spent three remarkable hours inside Houdini's house at 278 West 113th Street in New York City. The occasion was an open...